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On February 24, 1996, a lamentable event took place in front of the Malecón in Havana. Two small planes belonging to a terrorist group in Miami were shot down by anti-aircraft defenses when they violated Cuban national territory. Dozens of similar violations had taken place that year and the government had publicly warned it would not tolerate repetitions of such actions.
This event greatly increased tensions between the United States and Cuba and was the subject of intense debates within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the UN Security Council. On May 7, 1999 — more than three years and two months after the event– the government of the United States, irresponsibly and capriciously, used the incident and turned it into Count No. 3, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, against Gerardo Hernández Nordelo alone. The proceedings against the Five focused mostly on this charge.
To this accusation the court devoted most of its sessions, experts and witnesses Relatives of the men who lost their lives on February 24 were present every day in the courtroom, made public demonstrations, and gave press conferences right then and there in front of the members of the jury. This issue was the focus of the media campaign. Thousands of articles and comments were produced about it for the press, radio and television.
Strangely, the media paid great attention to Count No. 3 even before it existed. It can be stated without a doubt that the charge was the result of a conspiracy between the government and the terrorist groups responsible for the event. In this conspiracy, the “journalists” paid by the government had a decisive role.
In September 1998, when the FBI arrested the Five, the US Attorney pressed charges against the accused. Count 3 was not there, there was no mention of aircraft incidents, shot-down planes or anything of the sort. The accusation against Gerardo was added more than seven months later when he and his comrades were in solitary confinement, isolated from the world, in their first visit to “The Hole” that lasted 17 months.
An analysis of the Miami press between September 1998 and May 1999 is evidence of the previous statement. We can find many declarations by leaders of terrorists groups widely spread and amplified by “journalists”, asking the government to add the new allegation. Among other things we can read extensive information on the meetings between prosecutors and terrorists, from which the “Second Superseding Indictment” would emerge to take the place of the first and include Count 3.
A reading of both documents from the US Attorney would make any self-respecting journalist be surprised and feel an obligation to enquire. According to these documents, the FBI had managed to discover who Gerardo Hernández Nordelo was really, and what he was doing in the United States, at least since 1994, more than two years before the 1996 incident. They had been able to decipher his communications with Havana; they knew what he was doing and what he was being instructed to do. Thus, they did not act against Gerardo and his comrades, because they knew his work was not at all damaging to the US or the American people.
They also knew that Gerardo had nothing to do with the 1996 events. In those days, there was a great uproar, not only in Miami, but also in Washington. Bill Clinton, the president at the time, has written that he had received proposals even of a military attack against Cuba. The more aggressive groups in South Florida ranted night and day, calling for war. The complicity of these groups with the local FBI is well-known. Can anyone believe they would have done nothing against “the culprit” for the shooting down of the planes? That they would have done nothing against him if they had had him right there, surveilled by the FBI, in Miami?
And Cuba? None of the communications between Havana and Gerardo, in the FBI’s possession and presented at the trial, suggest that there was even the slightest concern about his safety or the need to protect him from the risks he could face if he had had any participation in the incident. Gerardo continued his work in Miami for almost three more years. He came to Cuba for vacation and nobody thought he should stay here to protect his life.
When he was arrested in September 1998, he was not charged with anything related to the 1996 events simply because the FBI knew, at least since 1994, what Gerardo was doing and therefore knew he had nothing to do with that unfortunate incident.
However, in 1999 they came up with the unbelievable slander of accusing him of first degree murder – with malice aforethought – and they did this – the FBI, that is, the government– to satisfy the wishes of the terrorist mafia and their lip-servicing buddies in the media who were also on the government payroll.
So weak was the charge that the US Attorney understood later they could not prove it and asked to withdraw it. This would have made front page news in any other case, but not in the case against the Five.
Ricardo Alarcón is the president of the Cuban National Assembly.
Translated by CubaNews.